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Actor Ron Palillo dies at 63

Connecticut native Ron Palillo dies at 63
Ron Palillo (Associated Press/Tina Fineberg)

Connecticut native Ron Palillo died after suffering a heart attack at the age of 63 on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. Palillo played Arnold Horshack on the 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back Kotter" in the 1970s. Though the geeky, but lovable, character 'Horshack' made him recognizable to viewers across the country, Palillo once said he "resented him for so many years. I thought it was Horshack's fault that I wasn't getting work." However, Palillo found his niche off the big screen and starred in several off Broadway shows and became a children's author.

Ronald Palillo was born on April 2, 1949, in Cheshire, Connecticut. As a child Palillo had a speech impediment. His mother encouraged him to become involved in a local Connecticut theater in the hopes that it might improve his stutter. It worked and Palillo became fascinated with acting. He later went on to attend the University of Connecticut and starred in several plays before landing the role of Horshack on "Welcome Back Kotter."

Thought Palillo had small roles on other 1970s and 1980s television shows, including "Cagney and Lacey," "The Love Boat," and "The A-Team" and later, several independent films, Palillo returned to the stage and starred in a variety of off-Broadway shows. He even taught at the University of Connecticut and established the Nafe E. Katter-Ron Palillo Scholarship for Acting. Palillo was originally taught by Katter, whom he considered to be his mentor. Katter described Palillo as "a wonderful student" who was "totally dedicated to theater."

Despite the resentment of being typecast by the Horshack character, Palillo found success on stage and starred in and directed theater productions, many of which were in Connecticut. His projects included "Front Street," Inherit the Wind" and "Wait Until Dark." He also wrote the play "The Lost Boy," based on "Peter Pan" author James M Barrie, which was performed first at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford.

At the time of his passing Palillo resided in Florida where he taught at the G-Star School of the Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting in West Palm Beach. Palillo also enjoyed painting and authored several children's books which included "A Gift for the Contessa" and "The Red Wings of Christmas."

Palillo died after having a heart attack on the morning of Tuesday, August 14, 2012. He was a resident of Palm Beach Gardens in Florida where he lived with his partner Joseph Gramm. The couple had been together for 41 years. He is also survived by his brothers Bobby and Richard, who reside in Florida and his sister Ann who is a Connecticut resident.

Sources: Palm Beach Post, Playbill.com and Courant.com.

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